Road testing Co-op’s online divorce service
26 January 2018
The Brief (from The Times)
Claims that the retailer is speeding up the ‘quickie divorce’ have met with derision from lawyers, and Tony Roe finds that the service offers little that isn’t already available
Co-op Legal Services has been trumpeting the launch of its “fully comprehensive digital divorce service” recently, provoking a strong reaction from existing online providers and family law solicitors alike.
Eyebrows were particularly raised by one article covering the launch, which used the headline : “Co-op speeds up the quickie divorce”. Lawyers know there is no such thing as a “quickie divorce”.
After the Co-op claimed that “the service could potentially cut the amount of time it takes to complete a non-contested divorce by a third, from a potential six to nine months to four to six months”,
I decided to give it a try. I had to provide a few personal details and choose which fact I was relying on to establish irretrievable breakdown of my marriage. I entered “unreasonable behaviour” but was not asked for particulars.
Next I was informed that the Co-op would be in touch to book my call with a “divorce specialist”. I could select a slot from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. This is the service that “allows people to start the divorce process online from home, at work, or on the go; at a time that suits them”. But it seems this claim only refers to when you might want to fill in a few bits of basic data.
My Co-op call “could be booked during a lunch hour or just before the kids get home from school. This means that the customer does not have to take time off work or travel to visit a solicitor’s office to start the divorce process”.
Odd, but I think most family law solicitors might be courteous enough to ask a client when would be best to discuss their matter and what method might be most convenient. I asked for a call on the Friday, but didn’t hear back until the following Monday.
The Co-op said that it would send the divorce papers through to the customer to be signed and returned, after which they will be sent on to the court.
Do "supermarket" or online divorce shops have a future? Coincidentally, this month the courts service has extended its own pilot scheme, which is far more than answering a few questions.
Called Apply for a Divorce, it aims to be a simple service for the 98 per cent of divorces that are uncontested and will “vastly improve the experience”. It could be a game-changer for commercial online providers. However, the personal service that expert niche family law solicitors provide will always add value.
One solicitor pointed out on Twitter that the Co-op could not speed up the time it took to process divorce because this is in the hands of the courts, which means the Co-op’s service is not really that new or groundbreaking.
Tony Roe is the founder of the Reading law firm Tony Roe Divorce & Family Law Solicitors
This article first appeared on The Times' Brief Premium website, on 24 January 2018, which is accessible at https://www.thetimesbrief.co.uk/users/39175-the-brief-team/posts/29538-road-testing-co-op-s-online-divorce-service (via the link above).